A few days ago we posted about the arrival of arguably the world’ most popular “indie” band to our neighborhood. Arcade Fire announced two last minute shows under the moniker “The Reflektors” at relatively unknown venue, former sheet metals and plastic factory, 299 Meserole Avenue (where both we at Bushwick Daily and Bang On! have hosted parties in the past). While excited, there was an overwhelming concern that washed us over once the dust settled– primarily it seemed no one was able to get tickets. While tickets were selling for anywhere between $150-$5000 (!!!) on various scalping websites, we were able to get in.
The show we encountered was just a little bit out of the dichotomy of the Reflektor world, full of all sorts of surprises (masks! costumes! trickery! magic?), a setlist packed full of brand new songs, a special appearance from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and a sublime level of peculiarity that you don’t find at many shows these days. It was definitely an experience.
Upon arrival at 299 Meserole, there was a line that snaked three blocks to Bushwick Ave and then down an additional block. This wasn’t your average line either; the ticket purchase came with a required formal/costume attire requirement. And boy did people go all out- it was like Halloween, except a really classy version. Tuxedos, Grecian gowns, the occasional Meth-cook costume, and much facepaint dotted the line to the masquerade concert. Concert goers were buzzing with excitement, and there was a level of anxiety in the air surrounding the sheer surrealness of the show’s understated advertising and enormous hype- was it really happening?
Once inside the fight for a spot close to the surprisingly small stage began. $9 beers washed away some second thoughts about the whole event while waiting and meeting new excited friends, waiting for the band to begin. Excitement bubbled, dance music went on and on, and eventually, suit jackets came off. When James Murphy (who produced the new album) took the stage around 9:30pm (the show was slotted for 8:30), the crowd dazzled with excitement. That was the first surprise. The second came when he explained there had been “a bit of a snafu” and that only 3 members of the band would be playing at this time. Three lesser-known band members came onstage wearing now-famous Reflektor bobblehead masks to rock out a tropical drone number, that left many confused by its anticlimax. They promptly filed off stage, leaving us scratching our heads from the start. That’s when the real surprise hit: suddenly the entire crowd, 3,000 deep, was being pushed, running, even falling, as a larger stage was revealed a few hundred feet away within the 5,000 square foot factory. Much to the disdain of those of us who had been scoping out a spot near the stage for the past two hours.
Youtube video via Scott Kominsky, who said “It was the best surprise EVER.”
Once the crowd settled, smashed into each other as we were, the band was halfway first the opening number, their bone-chilling new disco-inspired single “Reflektor,” which SPIN called “fucking amazing” and Pitchfork awarded with Best New Music (with unfortunately no surprise appearance from David Bowie, whose vocals are on the track). After announcing themselves as “The Reflektors,” they unravelled the songs of Reflektor (there may be some sort of reflective them going on here….), which is coming out October 29th on Mercury Records. Highlights included what promises to be an incredible slew of hits, from the twang-tinged vibe of “Normal Person” (lyrics here) to the tropical beat and singalong chorus of “Afterlife” (which they premiered on SNL last weekend). All in all the set of new songs is incredibly impressive, a welcome breath of fresh air for the band, whose cynical / philosophical lyrics and beautiful folk had turned their musical vibe slightly predictable on 2010’s The Suburbs. Reflektor showcases a more uplifting, progressive, and diverse sound that will allow them to transcend the indie niche they’ve dominated.
In the midst of premiering their new album to a sweat-drenched (but loving nonetheless) crowd, they threw in a few classics, which they referred to as “covers of the Montreal-based band Arcade Fire,” like “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” which drove the thousands of well-dressed music fans into a frenzy. The set ended, honestly a bit early, when lead singer Win Butler jumped into the enthusiastic crowd, wandered a few hundred people back and curved around to a small sound booth where he, masked, fooled around with some levels for a minute to many fans’ (and this photographer’s) delight. He then left to applause while the audience tried to figure out if the band was to be playing any more songs. He reappeared a minutes later, whipped off his mask, and to my utter shock, it was indeed NOT Win Bulter, but a lookalike. MAGIC I TELL YOU!
While positive dance hits blasted through the speakers the crowd waited, anticipating the inevitable encore. Some commotion happened when a crew came through with a huge ladder so they could hang a paper mache iphone object, labelled an”iphoe,” from the ceiling. After all, the band had only played for just shy of an hour and the crowd (especially those paying the big bucks) was hungry for more. Eventually, after much crowd hollering and disco ball spinning, Win Butler swooped back onstage to make one last announcement: “I hate to be the sweaty guy who smells like B.O., but…. we’re not playing any more songs.” He insisted that they’d be “hanging out all night with [us] guys and DJing” but in fact, not playing again. When the crowd BOOed that decision he called the crowd “awkward” and defensively apologized, guilting the crowd that just the mere presence of the band for the next little bit wouldn’t be good enough. There were some cheers, some puzzled looks, a mass exit. It really was awkward.
Overall, the show was epic in its own way. An unparalleled level of hype, the best looking crowd ever, and a fantastic performance with the biggest band around of course made for an unforgettable show. But this was contrasted with several strange elements: the industrial backdrop (which is littered among warehouses and garbage heaps in East Williamsburg), the amount of money most of the crowd had spent in securing tickets from scalpers, and the band’s obsession with their image as the underground band, “The Reflektors.” The band played with unbeatable energy, grace, and gratitude, although the odd (but fun) surprises of the performance and the indebtedness of the band to their strange alterego was lost on no one. It happened once, it’ll never happen again (unless you happen to see the show which is going on again TONIGHT at 299 Meserole), and I’m grateful to have experienced this slice of life. We’ll all be waiting patiently to see what’s next from this talented, intelligent, amazing band of weirdos.